Shabbat, A Dinner with Friends

Shabbat is usually something I don’t “practice” often, but on occassion I’ll host or take part in a Shabbat dinner. According to Jewish tradition, Shabbat is the day of rest. Starting at sundown on Friday till sundown on Saturday, it is custom to relax and spend time with family and friends, while doing our best not to use electricity or exert any energy. Since I consider myself more traditional, my observance of Shabbat pretty much consists of a home cooked meal shared with friends on a Friday night. Though I try not to use my phone during dinner, I am quite guilty of using the television, computer, and any other electrial equipment or appliance I normally would.

But regardless of my degree of observance, my Shabbat dinners revolve around the original principles of Shabbat; good company, cuisine, and conversation. Well, maybe Shabbat didn’t stress the importance of food, but it is a very important part of Jewish get togethers, as all of us can attest to. Thankfully Birthright Israel, an organization founded to strengthen the connection between Israel and Jewish communities around the world, was able to sponsor my Shabbat. And for that reason alone, I was sure to make it a special one.

A Shabbat wouldn’t be a Shabbat without two very important things; Challah and wine. The Challah was luckily brought over from Tal’s Bagels by a friend of mine. And since our Shabbat dinner was on a $25/pp budget, I stocked up on some reasonably priced bottles of wine at Trader Joe’s. Since I decided to serve a rack of lamb I picked up a variety of reds such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz which pair up very nicely. And for those who prefer white I went with Fetzer’s Sauvignon Blanc and Robert Mondavi’s Chardonnay. Any of these wines go well with the menu I’d prepared:
  • Hummus & Babaganoush served with warmed pita and baby carrots
  • Kalamata Olive and Bulgarian Cheese Bites
  • Arugula salad prepared with pear, goat cheese, pine nuts and dried cranberries in a honey balsamic vinaigrette

Main Course

  • Rosemary & Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Shallots
  • Homemade Brownies (with and without nuts)

I must admit that preparing for this dinner definitely took some time. And because I was hosting the Shabbat dinner at someone else’s apartment, the preparation was a bit more complicated. The preparations were as follows:

1 Day Ahead
  • Cook the Garlic Mashed Potatoes
  • Bake the Brownies
  • Cut and trim the Brussels Sprouts
  • Slice and dice the Shallots

* You may bake the brownies two days in advance, if needed

Day Of

  • Dice the Rosemary
  • Make the homemade Breadcrumbs
  • Dress, sear, & cook the Rack of Lamb
  • Bake the Brussels Sprouts
  • Put the salad components together
  • Make the dressing & dress the Salad

Needless to say, we had a phenomenal dinner and a wonderful time spending a Friday night without any distractions, except maybe the wine… So if you’re Jewish, or if you’re not, sometimes it’s just nice to relax with friends over a nice home cooked meal. But if you are Jewish, definitely check out Birthright Israel’s site so you can have your Shabbat meal sponsored! And please know that non-hebrews are very welcome at my Shabbat gatherings!

And stay tuned for the recipes to all of these delicious dishes!

Rugelach for the Jewish New Year

It’s always nice to bring in Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) with something sweet. So what could be sweeter and more delicious than a homemade batch of Rugelach? These were always my favorite Jewish dessert when I was younger, probably second to rainbow cookies. I always used to pick off the sugared chocolate chips. I actually still do, but we’ll keep that a secret. But a chocolate cinnamon filling paired with my sweet creamy dough really hits the spot and even makes me want to eat the entire cookie, not just the chips!

Rugelach, which literally means “little twists” in Yiddish, has Jewish Ashkenazic (Polish) origins. In Europe the dough was made with yeast so that it would be pareve (no dairy ingredients), and so it could be eaten with or after a meat meal and still be kosher. American Jews later introduced a cream cheese based rugelach dough. Rugelach dough is traditionally rolled around sweet fillings such as chocolate, raisins and nuts, or preserves.

These Rugelach were actually very easy and fun to make. The one suggestion I have before making these is to refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours before baking so that the dough is easier to shape.




1 cup white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)

8 oz fat free cream cheese (softened)

1 tsp vanilla

1 large egg yolks


3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

3/4 cup chopped pecans (toasted)

1/2 c turbinado sugar

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tsp cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins (optional)


1 egg yolk

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 cup water

1. Whisk the white flour, whole wheat flour, and the salt in one bowl.

2. Beat the softened butter and cream cheese until well blended (about 2-3 minutes) and then add the sugar.

3. Add the egg yolks and vanilla to the batter, incorporating the ingredients one at a time until blended.

4. Add the flour mixture to the batter in half cup increments and mix with a spoon until blended.

5. Knead the dough on a floured surface and then divide it into three disks. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

6. While the dough refrigerates, combine the sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in one bowl. In another bowl, combine the mini chocolate chips, chopped pecans, and raisins.

7. At this time you can also combine the egg yolk, sugar, and water for the glaze in a small bowl. You should keep this mixture refrigerated.

8. Once the dough is chilled preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You can now unwrap one disk and roll it out onto a flat surface between a sheet of wax paper (on the botton) and the plastic wrap on top. Roll the dough into a circle that is approximately 1/4 inch thick.

9. After the dough is rolled take 1/3 of the sugar mixture and spread it across the circle leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edge. Then take about 1/3 of the mini chocolate chip/chopped pecan/raisin mixture and spread it on top of the sugar mixture. Then put the plastic wrap you’d previously used over the circle and gently roll the toppings into the dough.

10. Once the toppings are somewhat set in the dough take off the plastic and divide the mixture with a pie cutter or pizza cutter into 12 triangular pieces.

11. The carefully take the wide side of the triangle and roll it up into the center of the circle. Use this technique to roll up the remaining pieces and then continue the process from the beginning with the other two disks.

12. You may want to refrigerate the first and second batch of disks while you finish rolling the remaining disks (prior to baking them).

13. Once all the Rugelach are rolled, you can brush the glaze you had made earlier on the tops. You may want to sprinkle some extra cinnamon or sugar on the tops before baking them.

14. You can now place the Rugelach on baking sheets lined with wax paper. The wax paper prevents the Rugelach from sticking to the sheet.

15. Bake the Rugelach for approximately 20-30 minutes until slightly golden on top. Cool the Rugelach on wire racks until room temperature and then serve! You should store in an air tight container for up to five days.